Emotional abuse can be tricky to detect, even to the people in the relationship. If you’ve noticed some of the warning signs—change in behavior, decreased self-esteem; controlling and possessive partner—in your friend’s relationship, it may be time to step up. Here are some ways you can help.
Don’t Be Critical
When you approach your friend with your concern of their safety, be gentle and calm and avoid blaming their partner. Criticizing the abuser may cause your friend to retreat and not want to talk to or ask for help from you. Make sure they know that you are also not blaming them for staying in the relationship.
Emotional abuse is hard to detect, and even a victim won’t always realize that they are being emotionally abused by their partner. When expressing your concerns to your friend, especially for the first time, understand that this might be the first time they have considered that they are in an abusive relationship. They may be startled by the thought of it or be defensive, so be prepared for such reactions.
If you have reason to believe that your friend is in danger, don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Emotional abusers don’t always use violence but their behavior can escalate to that. Talk to a parent, teacher, counsellor or anyone you trust and think can get through to your friend.
Love, Love, Love
Don’t be hesitant when it comes to telling your friend that you love them, that you are concerned about them and their safety, and that you are there to support them no matter what. It is very hard for a victim to talk about abuse so be understanding and considerate if they’re not ready to open up yet. Just make sure they know you care.
It’s Their Choice
As much as you may not like it, it’s your friend’s choice whether or not to leave the relationship. The most you can do is express your concern and enlighten them of your observations, but you can’t actually remove them from the relationship or forbid them from seeing their partner. You can hold their hand along the way, but they need to be the one to make the final decision.
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